WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite

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The 2017 WTA Finals eight players (zimbio.com)

For the fourth consecutive year the best players in the world will descend upon Singapore to play in the season-ending WTA Finals.

 

The eight highest scoring players on the tour this season will grace their presence in the round-robin tournament, which has a prize money pool of $7 million. Those eight have been split into two groups, called red and white. The top two players in each group will then progress to the semifinals.

Unlike previous years, seven out of the eight participants have the ability to end 2017 as world No.1. France’s Caroline Garcia is the only exception. Furthermore, five players are aiming to be the first from their country to win the tournament. The five is made up of Simona Halep (Romania), Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) and Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia).

The Red Group

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Current world No.1 Simona Halep will headline the red group. Until the past month, 2017 has been a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for the Romanian. Her consistency on the tour, illustrated by a win-loss of 46-15, has brought her close to the top spot on numerous occasions. At the French Open, she lead Ostapenko by a set and a break in the final before being denied her first grand slam and the No.1 ranking. It was a trend that continued to occur until she struck gold in Beijing in a somewhat fitting fashion. Getting revenge against Ostapenko to reach the final.

“Inside I can say that something has changed. I’m very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It’s just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I’m here just to enjoy the moment and we’ll see what is going to happen.” Halep told reporters about her rise to No.1.
“The dream came true. It is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”

Halep has reached five finals of the tour this season with her sole victory occurring in May when she defended her title at the Madrid Open.

Aiming to derail the top seed are three players that have previously scored wins over her at some point in their careers. Elina Svitolina has won more singles trophies (five so far) on the WTA Tour than anybody else this season, including two Premier 5 tournaments. She also owns the record of the longest streak on the tour this season with 15 consecutive wins. Against Halep, she has already defeated her twice this year.

“Of course I have lots of confidence. I mean, I won five tournaments this year. It was an amazing year for me. Lots of good memories. Hopefully it will continue in this tournament, as well. I’m looking forward to each challenge, you know, and it’s been an amazing year with so many good things.” Said Svitolina.
“Of course there have been some very disappointing losses, as well. For me, just the road to the top is never straight. It’s always with some curves (smiling).”

Making her fifth appearance, Caroline Wozniacki is eager to go deep in a tournament once again. The Dane had to settle for runner-up six consecutive times this season before prevailing at the Pan Pacific Open to win her 26th tour title. Despite being a former grand slam finalist and world No.1, 2017 is the first year she has managed to score 10 or more wins over top-10 players. Overall, she has won 55 matches this season, more than any other player in the tournament.

Hoping to capitalise on her previous WTA Finals experience, Wozniacki is aiming to reach the semifinal stage for the fourth time.

“”It’s a little bit of a different surface. I think if the balls hit through, they kind of skid through the court. If there is a bit more spin on it, the ball stops and it’s very slow. But I have played well here before, and I’m just excited for the challenge.” Wozniacki commented on the playing surface in Singapore.

Completing the group is 8th seed Garcia, who is one out of three players making their debut in the event. She secured her place with the help of a dream run in China. The 24-year-old is currently on a 11-match winning streak after claiming back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. In Beijing, she disposed of both Svitolina and Halep. Underlining her threat to the group. Earlier this year Garcia reached her first major quarter-final at the French Open before going out to Karolina Plisklova.

“I think it’s a great challenge for me. To improve, to learn a lot of things, to get experience to be ready for next year. Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki are the best we can do in this kind of styles, and they will have to make me work from the baseline, try to be very aggressive, play with my shots. I can’t ask for a better match to play, for sure.” – Garcia.

Head-to-head

Halep Wozniacki Svitolina Garcia
Halep 2-3 2-2 2-1
Wozniacki 3-2 0-3 2-0
Svitolina 2-2 3-0 1-1
Garcia 1-2 0-2 1-1

The White Group

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A mixture of old and new features in the quartet. Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is the highest ranked player in the group. The Spaniard enjoyed a brief four-week spell as world No.1 before being dethroned. She heads into the draw winning 46 out of 65 matches played this season. On the tour, she clinched the Cincinnati Open title with a 6-0, 6-1, thrashing against Halep. Muguruza has also been named the WTA ‘s player of the year.

“At the beginning of the year I had a few injuries and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I worked so hard in the preseason I couldn’t really show it on the court.” Explained Muguruza.
“I didn’t drop my spirit. In the clay season, I was really motivated, and I just cleaned that and started strong at Wimbledon, thinking that my time was gonna come. After that, everything went well. And what I like the most, it’s like after winning a Grand Slam I could manage to maintain that level for a couple more tournaments and not just lose.”

Pliskova will make her second consecutive appearance in Singapore after crashing out in the round robin stages last year. Known for her fierce serve, she has won a trio of premier titles in 2017 (two on a hard-court and one on grass). So far she has defeated four top-10 players this season, including Muguruza on two occasions. The Czech has also managed to reach the quarter-finals or better at three out of the four majors. Her best season performance at the grand slams to date.

“I think my group [has] more aggressive-style players in the group and the other one is more defending. I just like to play better these players. I played all of them a few times. It’s not that I didn’t lose to them, but it’s just like I like better their style of the game.”

At the age of 20, Ostapenko is the youngest player to debut at the WTA Finals since Wozniacki back in 2010. She rose to the limelight following her fairytale run at the French Open. At Roland Garros, where she was unseeded, Ostapenko knocked out four seeded players to claim her first title of any sort. More recently, she triumphed at Korea Open. Winning 42 matches this season, the Latvian has the second-lowest amount of tour wins in the entire draw.

Finally, Venus Williams continues to prove the age is irrelevant. The 37-year-old made her finals debut back in 1999. Overall, she has played in the tournament four times, winning it in 2008. A lot has changed since then, but the American has managed to fight her way back to the top.

“Just the depth in the game. The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.” She reflected about the changes in the women’s game.

Despite winning no titles and only 34 matches in 2017, it has hard to rule out her chances. Twice this year, Williams has reached the final of a major. At the Australian Open she fell to sister Serena and then succumbed to Muguruza in Wimbledon. In the premier events, her best run was a semifinal appearence in Miami.

“They’re all pretty special,” Williams reflected about her appearances at the year-end event. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the tour finals after 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Head-to-head

Muguruza Pliskova Ostapenko Williams
Muguruza 2-6 2-1 2-3
Pliskova 6-2 2-0 1-1
Ostapenko 1-2 0-2 0-1
Williams 3-2 1-1 1-0

Schedule of play

Date Session Day/Night Start of Session
Sunday
22 October
1 Night 5:00pm – Singles
NB 7.30pm – Singles
Monday
23 October
2 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Tuesday
24 October
3 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Wednesday
25 October
4 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Thursday
26 October
5 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
6 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Friday
27 October
7 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
8 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Saturday
28 October
9 Day 1:30pm – Doubles Semi Final
NB 4:00pm – Singles Semi Final
10 Night 7:30pm – Singles Semi Final
FB – Doubles Semi Final
Sunday
29 October
11 Night 4:00pm – Doubles Final
NB 7:30pm – Singles Final

NOTE: Time according to Singapore timezone (GMT+8)

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REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.

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The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 

 

The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.

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There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.

 

Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.

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Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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